Heathrow 13: They should have been sentenced

Jake Chapman


Many of the newspapers conveyed that it would be injustice to sentence the Heathrow 13, but I’m not so sure; reading the story of their protest disconcerts me. I agree with the reasons. But I am not at all ready to agree with the methods.

The climate change protestors, members of Plane Stupid, a group that opposes aviation’s impact upon the climate, have raised extremely important points in their argument against Heathrow’s plan of opening a third runway. Danni Paffard, one of the thirteen, recently wrote an article for the Guardian stating why she participated in the event. ‘If the government commits to build a new runway,’ she said, ‘it knowingly signs up to breaking its own “legally binding” climate change commitments’, adding to Heathrow’s already ‘illegal levels of air pollution.’ David Cameron has already been under scrutiny after announcing cuts to renewable energy subsidies just five days after signing an agreement at the Paris Climate Conference in December, a climate change deal which promised to cut the nation’s emissions and keep global warming under 2C.

It is easy to become outraged at these facts. I’m sure this feeling was only multiplied tenfold in the activists of Plane Stupid. I do not, however, take airport situations like this one lightly. At a time when a conscious threat can be felt across the world as a result of the various bombings and disappearances of late, an ‘innocent’ reason for trespassing could be easily misinterpreted.

Terrorist situations are not unheard of in the UK. In 1984, a bomb exploded in an unclaimed baggage section inside Heathrow. In 2007, a flaming car was driven into Glasgow airport, filled with flammable liquids and gases. In 1994, Heathrow’s runway was targeted by mortar bombs that failed to detonate. Attacks occur all over the world on a regular basis, ones that are much more severe than these.

Having said all of this, it brings to mind what other methods Plan Stupid could have used to elicit the media attention they received. Undoubtedly, public knowledge of Heathrow’s plan for a third runway will have grown massively since the ordeal. Then again, the Heathrow 13 could have been the first group of climate change protestors to ever be sentenced to jail time, and a sentencing would surely have opened the gates for more like it. Fortunately, they have avoided imprisonment, but it was an extremely close call. People won’t hear you unless an extreme act is performed, but should that be considered a justifiable reason for such an act?